Slash young but skilled
Midget AAA female hockey team starts season with only eight returning players
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 14, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Slash will make their mark in the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League with a team of young talent.
Only eight players are back from the 2013 north division semifinalists.
“We have quite a few first year players. They skate well. They’re going to be competitive. They work hard. They’re very coachable too so that’s a good thing,” said Phil Webb, the second-year Slash head coach. “We’re a fairly skilled team, they’re just young and they’ve got to learn some new stuff and how to play at this level consistently.
“Consistency is hopefully going to be a positive in a while here, but it’s just going to take a little bit to get there.”
A strong core of newcomers from the St. Albert Lady Raiders in the Alberta Major Bantam Female Hockey League are moving up into the midget AAA ranks.
“We’re going to make sure they get lots of ice and they learn how to compete. We’re doing a lot of battle stuff in practice. They have to find a way to play at this level,” Webb said.
In the pre-season the Slash played three games in three days at NAIT Arena and beat the Battleford Sharks and Banff Hockey Academy by identical 4-2 scores and lost 6-2 to the NAIT Ooks.
“They did quite well actually, better than I thought we would do,” Webb said.
League play starts this weekend with games against the Spruce Grove Saints today at 3:45 p.m. at Grant Fuhr Arena and the Sherwood Park Fury on Sunday at 7:45 p.m. at Northstar Hyundai Arena.
“It will be nice to get going. We have a lot of games in a very short period of time. We play seven games in the first three weeks,” Webb said.
Last season the Slash finished 14-13-5 for third place in the north and in the semifinals lost the deciding game in the best-of-five playoff against the second-place Grande Prairie Storm after losing twice to start the series. The Slash were winless in five games in Grande Prairie in league and playoffs combined.
Once again the Slash will face an uphill battle to knock off the Edmonton Thunder, winners of five-straight AMMFHL titles, but Webb is more concerned about his team than the three-time bronze medallists and 2011 silver medallists in the five-year history of the Esso Cup national championship.
“I don’t worry about them too much to tell you the truth. If we were on an equal playing field I might worry about them a little bit but I don’t think we’re on an equal playing field. They have one team for all of Edmonton and we have one team for St. Albert more or less with a few players that aren’t from St. Albert,” Webb said. “We have to worry about the programs that are very similar to ours like Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove.”
The Slash can draw players from as far north as Fort McMurray, one of 20 centres within St. Albert’s female player boundary that includes Morinville, Legal, Bon Accord, Gibbons, Redwater, Riviere Qui Barre, Westlock, Athabasca, Boyle, Fox Creek, Lac La Biche and Slave Lake.
“Our zone is a small community zone. The biggest community we have in it is Fort McMurray and it’s hard to convince girls to come from there to play here,” Webb said. “Three years ago we used to have Fort Saskatchewan as part of our zone and they gave it to Sherwood Park, which really hurts us. The Fort has always had a very strong female program.”
ICE CHIPS: Slash defenceman Abby Benning made the U18 Team Alberta top 27 list from the top 46 summer camp tryouts. The final 20-player roster will compete at the National Women’s U18 Championship, Nov. 6 to 10 in Calgary.